White Widow Online - Jim Lehrer

CHAPTER 1

Jack saw immediately that she was a White Widow. He knew even before she was right there in front of him, when she was still in line with seven or eight other passengers ahead of her. It was the hair that first made her stand out. It was dark brown and long and it fell down across both shoulders like an expensive shawl. She was also tall for a woman, maybe five eight. But she was thin tall.

Why was she so thin? Was she sick? Was she dying of something? Oh, no, no. She wasn’t that thin. She was perfect thin. Thin perfect. Her face was perfect too, perfectly tanned. Had she been to the beach at Padre Island, Jack’s favorite place in the world? Had she just come from being in a movie with Clark Gable?

“All the way to Corpus today, I see,” he said as he took her ticket.

“That’s right,” she replied.

All the way to Corpus today, I see.

That’s right.

She looked right at him for just a blink and then cut her eyes to her left toward the step that led up into the bus. He saw those eyes long enough to see they were the most gorgeous blue eyes he had ever seen. They reminded him of the sky over the Gulf at Padre on sunny clear days in April and May.

He had never seen a woman like her. Not in the flesh. He had the sudden desire to grab her right hand, bow forward, kiss that hand ever so gently and say, “Welcome to my chariot, White Widow of My Dreams.”

Now wouldn’t that be a great way to end his career with Great Western Trailways! Not even the union would defend him. It was surely against company policy for bus drivers to grab women passengers’ hands and kiss them, even those of White Widows. But he could probably get away with it because nobody with the company would believe he had done such a thing. Not him. Not Jack T. Oliver, the best they had behind the wheel.

He inserted her ticket into the slot in his silver ticket punch and gave it three punches. He felt a slight quiver in his right hand as he punched. Look at that hand, he thought. What is this White Widow doing to me? He slipped the punch’s ring over his right ring finger and used both hands to tear the ticket across the perforation. He handed her back the portion marked Identification Check, keeping the main section, which showed that it was a one-way ticket from Victoria, Texas, to Corpus Christi, Texas.

Why only one way? Are you never coming back?

He nodded and stepped aside and took hold of her right elbow with his right hand to guide her up into his bus.

She was wearing a cream-colored blouse that had sleeves down to just above the elbow. So he felt her skin. Only a tiny bit and only for the count of one-two. But it was like touching velvet, the kind big hotels put on lobby couches.

“Have a nice trip,” he said.

“Thank you,” she replied.

Have a nice trip.

Thank you.

And she disappeared up into the bus. His bus. He watched her turn left down the aisle to find a seat. He saw her bottom move under her skirt, a dark brown checked skirt that went just below her knees. Was it silk? He didn’t know cloth that well. Most everything looked like cotton to him.

Her legs, tanned as her face, were perfectly proportioned. She was not wearing stockings. It was too hot for anybody to wear stockings. Even a White Widow.

Was that a bump there on the calf of her right leg? A bite? Had a mosquito bitten this beautiful woman’s leg? Or was it more serious? Would it have to come off? Would she lose her leg?

He punched and took the tickets of the last six passengers, got them aboard and closed the bus door behind them. Twenty-six passengers in all, a good load these days. Twelve of the twenty-six were thrus from Houston. Not bad for an early September afternoon on this run, Schedule 726. Except on holidays and some summer weekends he seldom had every seat filled anymore. Only on the days before and after Christmas and Thanksgiving did he leave Houston or anywhere else with people standing in the aisle or, when the equipment was available, a second section, called a double, right behind him. Business had been slowly declining since the war ended and everybody could